CVS to Alert Massachusetts Officials of Suspected Overprescribing

By Kelly Burch 09/15/16

The move is part of a groundbreaking settlement between the Massachusetts Attorney General and the state’s largest pharmacy chain.

CVS to Alert Massachusetts Officials of Suspected Overprescribing

CVS Pharmacies—the largest pharmacy chain in Massachusetts and second largest in the nation—will now be required to alert Massachusetts officials to suspected overprescribing and other misuse of opiates. 

According to the Boston Herald, the agreement is part of a settlement between the Massachusetts Attorney General and the pharmacy chain, which was founded in Massachusetts.

The agreement follows an investigation that showed that CVS pharmacists violated state policy about 150 times in six years. These violations included accepting cash payments for prescriptions that insurance companies refused to cover because of suspected misuse. 

In addition to alerting the attorney general’s office of suspected overprescribing, CVS will require pharmacists to check Massachusetts’ online prescription monitoring program (PMP). The chain will also pay a $795,000 fine, $500,000 of which will be earmarked for fighting opiate abuse. 

"Pharmacies are on the front lines of this epidemic," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said during her announcement of the settlement earlier this month. "They are the gatekeepers for powerful prescription drugs.”

If requested, CVS is now required to turn over the names and medical license numbers of prescribers “whose controlled substance prescriptions CVS will not fill at any CVS locations,” meaning the prescriber has been flagged for overprescribing or prescribing an odd combination of pills. 

"CVS pharmacists armed with this kind of information can help us stop prescription drug abuse and stop prescription opioids from getting into the hands of people struggling with addiction," Healey said, according to MassLive.

Massachusetts has recently updated its PMP database. By October, doctors there will be required to check with the database each time they prescribe a drug considered to have a high potential for abuse. The only pharmacists that are currently obligated to use the PMP are CVS pharmacists bound by the settlement. 

Currently, 79% of Massachusetts prescribers and pharmacists are registered with the state's PMP. With the new system, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker believes that his state is at the forefront of prescription monitoring. 

"I do believe at this point we are way ahead of where the vast majority of other states are with respect to creating this kind of collaboration, this relationship around core competencies and core curriculum around opioid therapy and addiction management," the governor said in August.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.